Canada Research Chair in Metabolism in Human Stem Cells and Cancer Development
Tier 2 - 2013-04-01
Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences Profile | Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute
Using cellular reprogramming to understand the link between fat and disease, such as obesity and its complications including early onset of heart disease, nerve damage in the hands and feet (neuropathy) and cancer; and finding ways to treat these diseases by halting fat uptake or directing cells to create different fat, which promotes burning of fat instead of storage.
This research will facilitate the development of novel ways to combat obesity, and improve treatment for some chronic diseases.
Targeting Fat Cells to Tackle Obseity
Why is it that many fat people can’t lose weight? Are there functional and genetic differences between obese and healthy weight individuals? And if so, what alternative treatment strategies can we develop to improve the quality of life for those unable to lose weight through dieting and exercise?
Eva Szabo, a specialist in endocrinology and metabolism, is using cellular reprogramming to understand the link between fat and disease, and why some obese individuals develop other conditions like type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, nerve damamge and cancer.
A pioneer in the field of directed reprogramming from human skin cells (she was lead investigator in the groundbreaking studies that discovered how to make blood from skin), Szabo uses patient-derived stem cells to create novel models of metabolic diseases in vitro. These models allow her lab to determine both how resident stem cell populations are affected by disease, and also how they can be harnessed towards the development of novel therapeutics
Researchers now believe that current treatments for obesity, including appetite-suppressing medications and weight-loss surgery, do not work long term because the patient’s fat stem cells continue to create new fat cells. Szabo is studying ways to chemically target these stem cells to stop fat uptake.
She is also looking at ways to direct these cells to make a totally different fat cell – the calorie-burning brown/beige kind – effectively stopping the cells from taking up and storing fat.
Her work in fat tissue engineering will lead to new patient-tailored therapies for obesity, and advance the use of soft tissue regeneration in the treatment of chronic disease.